are/were Korean

bennyfriendly

Senior Member
korean
I have made up the sentences below.

(1) Most of the people I met last week were Korean.

(2) Most of the people I met last week are Korean.

Most of my non-native English speaking friends think "were" is correct because it's consistent with the time being referred to in the sentence. However, my other friends think the present tense, are, is correct because time will not change one's ethnic background.

Which verb tense is correct? Thank you for helping me.
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Which verb tense is correct?
    Both tenses are possible, Benny.

    I would probably use were in that remark about people who I met earlier. If I did so, it wouldn't matter to me that their ethnicity had not changed since then. I simply find it easier to use past tenses in references to things I did and people I met in the past.
     

    cidertree

    Senior Member
    Hiberno-English
    An argument can be made for both tenses. If you don't expect to ever see these people again, use "were"; otherwise "are" seems more appropriate.

    crossposted.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    The idea that "were" is correct because it's consistent with the time being referred to in the sentence is false -- there's no such requirement in English. The real question is: what is true? Is it true that they were Korean then, or is it true that they are Korean now?

    Given the short period of time involved (one week) and the long process it takes to change one's nationality (I guess months or years), the choice between were and are is probably quite irrelevant.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    The real question is: what is true? Is it true that they were Korean then, or is it true that they are Korean now?
    Given that it is extremely unlikely that they will have changed their nationality since last week, the two statements (that they were Korean then, and that they are Korean now) are clearly both true.
    I'd say the real question is not what is true but what is important in terms of the point the speaker wishes to make.
    I don't see any reason here why the speaker would particularly want to convey the idea that the people he met last week are Korean now. I'd therefore go with "were".
     
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